In celebration of Black History Month 2015, Cultural Xplorer is continuing with the annual series of Black History Month interviews highlighting bloggers and travelers of color. This interview series was created to eradicate the long-standing myth that African-Americans and people of color do not travel.
This series features a number of interviews from both men and women of color from around the world who are passionate about traveling and sharing their stories through their writing and through travel videos.
Jessica on Traveling
How were you exposed to traveling?
My first exposure to travel actually came from all the moving around my family did (7 moves in total). The first move we made that I was actually old enough to remember was from New York to Florida. Instead of flying to our new home, we drove. I can still remember how excited I was to be heading off on what seemed like a grand adventure. I was only nine-years-old at the time so of course I ended up sleeping for a lot of the trip. I do remember, however, waking up just in time to see the sun rising as we passed through Georgia. Seeing the sunrise from a completely new and unexplored place was one of those beautifully surreal moments for me. I couldn’t help but smile and feel lucky to be seeing and experiencing that. I think it was in that moment that I fell in love with travel (and road trips!). My first international trip two years later would just confirm that new love.
What motivated you to make travel a part of your life?
I have a lot of goals, but they can all be summed up by the fact that I don’t want to reach the end of my life and have regrets. I want to live life to its absolute fullest. For everyone that means something different. For me, that means seeing and experiencing as much as possible of what this gorgeous planet has to offer. Getting out of my comfort zone, experiencing new cultures, learning different languages, meeting new people and all of the other wonderful things that come along with travel are also the things that make me the happiest. So making travel a part of my life was the easiest and most natural decision I have ever made.
What is your most memorable travel experience to date?
It’s so difficult to choose just one experience as the most memorable, but I would have to say that spending my 21st birthday in Spain definitely makes it into the top three. My best friend from high school, who I hadn’t seen in a couple of years, was studying in England at the time and came down to Spain to celebrate with me. That alone would have been enough for a great birthday, but we topped it off with an amazing night. I left the hostel already a little happier than usual from all the shots she force-fed me as I showered and did my makeup. Then, I ran around all the bars and clubs that night with a huge Spanish flag tied around my neck like a cape. Everyone I met even if it was just for a brief moment was required to sign my birthday flag. By the end of the night I think I spoke to every single partygoer in that city. To this day I still have that flag and it’s filled with signatures and happy birthday messages. That birthday was epic and the stories I have from that night make my best friends and I laugh until we cry. I’m smiling now just thinking about it.
How many places have you traveled to so far?
So far I have traveled to 14 different countries in North America, the Caribbean and Europe. Within my home country, I have visited 10 states and Washington D.C.
What is the greatest lesson you have learned on the road?
The greatest lesson I have learned on the road is that anyone can travel.
I think there is this common misconception that travel is only for wealthy people who can afford fancy hotels or for dirt poor vagabonds who will dumpster dive and sleep in questionable places just to get by.Getting out there myself has made me realize that there is a wide variety of ways you can travel that don’t require you to have a trust fund or on the opposite end, to lower your standards for hygiene.
Along my travels, I have met people of all ages, backgrounds, nationalities and walks of life and they all had their own travel style. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to travelers. Anyone with enough determination can make travel a part of their life if they really want to. I also think that’s one of the most beautiful things about travel. It really is for everyone.
What has been your biggest challenge on the road and how did you overcome it?
One of the biggest challenges for me has been dealing with the sadness that comes from knowing I’m missing out on so much in the lives of my friends and family. I do my best to keep in touch as much as possible via video chats and texts, but when I’m still feeling down, it’s the support of those same friends and family that keep me going. Remembering how proud my loved ones are of me for pursuing my dreams gives me the extra boost of encouragement to continue doing so. I just remind myself of how fortunate I am to not only have amazing opportunities to travel, but to also have an unbelievably awesome group of people cheering me on along the way.
Jessica on Blogging
When did you decide that you wanted to become a travel blogger?
I decided to become a travel blogger about two years ago when I moved to Spain to work as an English teacher’s assistant. Before then, I had wanted to be a travel writer for many years, but I just wasn’t sure how to start. There was a time when I started to give up on that dream. I just didn’t think it was possible for me to earn a living and travel. Luckily it didn’t’ take me long to realize how ridiculous that idea was! I saw my move to Spain as the perfect opportunity to travel more often and also to start writing about it. My blog is not only a stepping stone for what I hope will turn into a fruitful writing career, but also a way for me to document everything I’m experiencing now and to inspire others to keep their traveling dreams alive too.
What makes your blog unique in comparison to other travel blogs?
When I started out on the blog I had a very specific catch phrase/rule I wanted to follow while writing it: “be personal but informative.”
Not very catchy, I know, but it’s part of what I think makes my blog unique. I always aim to make my stories personal (that’s the point of a blog right?) but also informative because no one besides my parents would care to read a boring rundown of “I went to Paris and did XYZ like every other tourist who has ever been there.”
What are the top three articles that you feel everyone should read on your blog?
My favorite and also by far most popular post is the one I wrote about my experiences being black in Spain. It sparked a lot of great conversation on my blog, and I really loved writing that piece. It was even republished on another website.
Other posts that I think are fun to read and give a good idea of what my blog is all about are the one about how a Spanish taxi driver took my suitcase hostage and the one about the top four cities of Andalusia. Like I said before, I like to write a good mix of both personal but informative posts.
Who is your target audience?
I don’t have a very specific target audience. I think my blog can appeal to anyone interested in travel whether they are an expert backpacker or someone leaving their hometown for the first time.
That being said, since I write a lot about Europe and more specifically about Spain, travelers interested in this particular part of the world are definitely a target audience. I do hope to start exploring South America within the next year or two so my target audience will be expanding eventually.
Jessica on Life
Favorite travel (or life) quote:
“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.” – The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho
What is something that your readers (or viewers) do not know about you?
One thing my readers don’t know about me is that I was extremely accident-prone as a child and well into my teen years too. I have broken both of my arms (not at the same time luckily), have had surgery on my right elbow, have permanently damaged the middle finger on my right hand after it was closed in a car door, and I also have a Harry Potter-ish scar on my forehead that only started to fade in recent years. You can still see it if you look closely though. Those were just the major injuries. It would take an entire novel to write about all of my accidents. I was never clumsy though, just very active, a tad reckless and at times oblivious to my surroundings. Fortunately, I am out of that stage now. *knock on wood*
What do your future travel plans for 2015 include?
2015 is going to be a big year for me in terms of travel. First and foremost, I’m planning to explore a lot more of Spain. I want to know this country inside and out before my time living here is over. I’m also planning a three to four-month backpacking trip around Europe to start after I finish my teaching contract in Spain. I’m not sure exactly where I will go in those months, but I do know that I want to focus on slowly exploring Italy and Greece the most. After that trip I will just have to wait and see where the wind blows me.
Interested in finding out more about Jessica and her travels around the world?
Blog: She Dreams of Travel